Treatment Of Women Characters In Arundhati Roy’s The God Of Small Things
The God of Small Things is entangled with women characters rather than male characters. Arundhati Roy concentrates on the provoked lives of women, their insignificant attitudes and the disguised cultural entities. Roy explicates the wide horizon of cultural and traditional domination suffered by women through the characters like Ammu, Baby Kochamma, Rahel, and Margaret Kochamma. The writer is judgmental in characterization, she portrays a real sketch of every woman in a patriarchal society. The characters are prominent and they appear throughout the novel making a continuous sequence, all the characters of the novel suffer a tragic life. Arundhati Roy also introduces to the reader, the caste conflict in the traditional and educated minds. This paper highlights the treatment of women in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things.
Arundhati Roy is an Indian writer in English. She was born in Meghalaya on 24 November,1961 to Rajib Roy, a Hindu from Bengal and Mary Roy, a Syrian Christian from Kerala. Having completed her schooling in Tamil Nadu, Roy went to School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi. Roy was awarded the 2006 Sahitya Akademi Award and 1997 Man Booker Prize for her debut novel The God of Small Things, becoming the first Indian woman writer to receive the Man Booker Prize. This is a semi-autobiographical book of Arundhati Roy. She recollects her life in Ayemenem, her mother’s hometown and the days in her father’s tea plantation in Meghalaya, also about her career and personal acquaintance.
Ammu Ipe is the tragic heroine of this novel. The title of the novel directly implies the character of Ammu. Ammu’s life is sophisticated, she fills her mind with all the shattered dreams. She dies at a young age of 31 which is “not old, not young” or “viable diable age”.
Ammu finishes her schooling in Delhi and returns to Ayemenem due to her father’s compulsion. She tries to do her higher studies but is denied. Ammu tries to escape from Ayemenem, finally succeeds by staying at her aunt’s house in Calcutta. She marries a misfit from Calcutta and manages to live, endures unbearable pain, strives to make a good living for the sake of her children. She returns to her parent’s house as an unwelcomed guest. She is unaware of her womanhood, fails to love her children and lives a fateful life. Ammu is rejected in her family also she is fond of Vellya Paapen who belongs to a downtrodden caste, which creates a further commotion in the family. She is fused into a vulnerable situation everything in her life seems to be vague. She has contact with the outcast Vellaya Paapen, she is humiliated by the police in front of her children, cries for her inability, loses her mind and suffers insanity. She finally attains a tragic death. People find her dead in a lonely room, her death remains a confusion. The character of Ammu is insignificant even in death, her death ceremony is denied by the church premises, her brother Chacko tries hard to make a ceremony for his lovable sister, but in vain. Finally, he decides to take his sister’s body to the electric crematorium, Ammu’s body is wrapped by a bedsheet and is given a receipt number Q 498673. Though being brought up in a traditional and high class family, Ammu is unable to escape the fateful life of hers. She remains a weak character throughout the novel. Though she is educated and is free to an extent, she is unable to make her own living due to the cultural barriers. Right from her childhood, Ammu is controlled by people who are around her, she becomes a victim of her own emotions. Only beggars, abandoned people or the homeless are burnt in electric crematorium but here a woman with relations and a reputed background is burnt inside an incinerator, “The whole of her crammed inside a little clay pot”. The only person to love her and stay with her till the end is her brother, Chako Ipe.
Another prominent woman character in this novel is Rahel. Rahel is the daughter of Ammu. Rahel is a rebellious child in school but is a lovable child of her mother. She is alienated from other students in school also blacklisted for the first time at the age of eleven in Nazareth Convent School for her “perverted quality”. Rahel grew up as a solitary child since the separation of her twin brother Estha. “Rahel grew without a brief”, “she remained free to make her own enquireies”(17). Having completed her schooling, Rahel acquired an admission at College of architecture in Delhi. Later she meets Larry McCaslin who takes her along with him to Boston after their marriage. Unlike Ammu, Rahel is not left in the middle yet she is free to move away from her husband at any time without any restriction. Larry McCaslin is a pleasing male character who seeks love despite being chauvinistic like Comrade Pillai or Pappachi. Rahel returns to her hometown to find her long lost twin brother, finds the unchanging humans and the changed surrounding. While entering into the village of Ayemenem Rahel is taken aback by her old memories of her life in the village. The mild memories of her cousin Sophie Mol flashes in her memory lane. Rahel remembers the impolite police “the Kottayam Police did not take statements from veshyas or illegitimate children”(8). Like her mother she too is dominated by her grandmother and other men of the family. She is not secured around her uncle either, loses faith in her father and finally her love for her brother is also shallowed. All her emotions are tied up, they have no more effect in her life and she faces the reality with her vagueness.
The highly educated woman as described by Arundhati Roy is Baby Kochamma. She is the daughter of Rev. E. John Ipe, a priest in Mar Thoma Church. Rev. John is a strict father and is very cautious of his family. It is the time when Baby Kochamma is introduced to Father Mulligan, a handsome young Irish monk with whom she falls in love. Though her father fails to notice her daughter hovering around father Mulligan, Mulligan never fails to notice the young girls flirtations around him. Mulligan leaves Ayemenem, Baby Kochamma is frustrated and decides to join in a Catholic Convent in Madras to maintain her contact with him. She learns the sophisticated sisters in the convent waiting for a chance to prove their intelligence to Bishop and other fathers, find a chance to impress them. Tired of the so called spiritual life in the convent Baby Kochamma writes regularly to her family recounting the story of Kohinoor. It is Kochamma’s mother who finds it is her daughter describing herself in the name of Kohinoor. Convincing her family Baby Kochamma returns to Ayemenem and manages to study in foreign. She returns to her home with the idea of developing an ornamental garden which never existed in and around the village. She strives to provide and buys a television. She stands as a strong feminine character with a lost love, perhaps making an independent life. She lives with very young dreams with all her will. After her return from foreign she never falls in love with someone, she makes her living in her own house by managing a pickle factory.
Margaret Kochamma is an English woman who is a part of the Ayemenem house. “Margaret Kochamma, however, was a different kettle fish altogether”(169). Margaret Kochamma used to be the wife of Chacko, Ammu’s brother. They both met when they were in England it was the time when Chacko was pursuing his studies at Oxford. Margaret is a free spirited woman, with her modernised ideals and resistance towards the other members of Chacko’s family she is disliked by them. She moved out of her family home with a “youthful assertion of independence”(240). Unlike other women characters of the novel Margaret Kochamma does not limit herself but strives to make an independent living by working as a waitress in a café while saving money to join a teacher training course. “Faced with the Real World, she clung nervously to old remembered rules, and had no one but herself to rebel against”(241). When she finds that Chacko is not the man of her dreams he immediately leaves him without any regret. She marries another man called Joe. “Joe was a biologist. He was updating the third edition of a dictionary of Biology for a publishing house. Joe was everything that Chacko was’nt. Steady. Solvent. Thin”. Margaret found herself attracted toward Joe like a ray of light in darkness. The whole family is devastated when Margaret left Chacko leaving all the good memories still bearing the fruit of Chacko’s love in her womb. She returns to Ayemenem on the call of Chacko after losing Joe in an accident.
Arundhati Roy, as an Indian writer chronicles the life of women in India who undergo miseries in their daily life through her novel The God Of Small Things. The characters of the novel are educated to an extent but are unable to escape the societal norms that tie them up from becoming empowered rather than existing. All the characters undergo certain sufferings which make their lives mostly tragic. Bringing up the contemporary issue, dealing with untouchability, Roy sketches the clear picture of women in reality.